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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Behind IndieCade The Stephanie Barish Interview

Stephanie Barish  CEO and Founder of IndieCade
Stephanie Barish is the CEO and Founder of IndieCade, the independent games festival taking place this October 14-16th at USC. Get your passes here to play some of the new and strange games that'll be on Steam and only at the 'Cade. TTDILA has been covering the festivities possibly since the festival started in LA.

We were lucky enough to get to talk with the energetic and happy Stephanie Barish leading into the month of October with only about two weeks to go before IndieCade.

"Truthfully, we're really sad cause we love the integration with the city which made it such fun...putting an event with so much technology outside was really challenging...," Stephanie told me about the move.

You see, for long time fans of IndieCade, like myself, we've called downtown Culver City home since 2009. Culver City can longer be the home of IndieCade, at least not this year as the major hub of it was an empty lot. Now construction breaks ground this October to develop the lot into a shopping center. So USC offered to hold IndieCade on campus this year. And so, it will now take place for the first time on the college campus, planned when there would be no big home games that weekend, thank goodness.

"It's going to be very nice, the games are going to be in a variety of sound stages and galleries. And then we have a lovely outdoor big huge grassy area. It just won't have that mixed into the city feel," Stephanie said about the new digs.

USC is a big change for how IndieCade is celebrated. The connectivity to the city makes you want there to be some local community organization of gaming outside. Sure, there's the monthly meeting of Street Pass Los Angeles or the annoyance of Pokemon GO, but I'm talking more about community games on projectors, on phones or on no tech whatsoever. Being in a major metropolitan area made all the difference to me from other gaming festivities.

I remember going on a puppet quest with puppet on hand, being given a digital camera and shooting a horrible scene of Human Centipede just based on the poster for one of the games around the city. It's hard to separate IndieCade from Culver City from one's memories.

"Yes, it's no going to be the same and this is a temporary move for us, but it's really nice, we're taking over the School of Cinematic Arts, " Stephanie said and repeated how much room we would have. She continued, "For the most part wenow have the monitors and screens in those nice air-conditioned environments." And anyone whose gone to IndieCade before knows how hot it could get outside in the tents or in the firehouse.

"I know, we were so sad to leave the park, that was the thing we were most sad about; so great," that was Stephanie on IndieCade's last year  of Night Games which took place in Culver City's downtown park. To me, it was one of the greatest experiences I've had as you got to enjoy nature and being outside while playing video games and all sorts of other games.

"So the night games will be outdoors. We have a large grassy area's really big, " she told me, maybe to quell my fears of how different it would be from the park. She added, "The night games this year are going to revolve around a number of interactive theater and theatrical experiences."

When I asked about the big game companies being there, Nintendo, PlayStation and other big name companies have had full booth areas in the past, she told me "We have PlayStation, yes. And one big exciting thing is they'll be launching there PlayStation VR the same week. And we we'll have a lot of PS VR there." IndieCade will have it's own VR showcase too.

Sadly, those waiting for Nintendo swag this year forget it. No booth is planned this year. That's just this year, remember the new Nintendo system is on the way and nothing will be going to Wii U for a while.

I brought up being able to talk  to the developers, at IndieCade most of the time the creator of the game is there in person or has just gone to the bathroom or just went out to lunch or possibly someone else working on the game is there. In any case, you'll be close to the people really making the games.

"It's a very unusual event in that way in that you have access to all the creators that are going to be there," she told me. She then mentioned the Gaming For Everyone pavilion is going to be bigger this year. And if they're giving free pins and stickers again, I'm there.

"Actually, it's a very rigorous process," Stephanie began telling me about how games are selected for IndieCade. "So those games are highly selected, they go through a; they're submitted earlier in the year, it's almost an eight month process." She broke it down, "Submitted earlier in the year, we have a three month submission period. Then we have about four months, we get more than a thousand games to go through. We have about seven hundred jurors. It's organized by several jury chairs. And then the jury goes through and reviews all the games." Then out of that thirty-six games are selected as nominated games and  fifteen more vid games are selected with ten virtual reality games are selected. About a dozen table and big games. She told me they did what many other festivals don't which is provide feedback.

Stephanie brought up the awards on Sunday evening and the three extra shots people have to win with the attendee, developer and press attending.

From all of that work I guessed if it was a full time job, it was. "I run the overall event, " she told me, before being kind of humble about it and thanking her team that she's been with for ten years.

Then I brought up how one year the festival had stamps with guidebooks. I kept it near the windowsill of my desk for a few years before moving. I cherished my IndieCade passport. You would get a stamp from each of the games played, if you collected enough you could win prizes. Stephanie tells me, "In fact, the stamps and the guidebook was created by the guys behind Cards Against Humanity. They had just Kickstarted the game then. So they did that and designed the whole book."

When I asked about a new idea like it she told me, "We usually do it when someone proposes something to us and there's is something they want us to do." Then she told me of another proposal just came in, but it's too late to put it in, she wouldn't even tell me what it was.

We then talked about the long history of games from IndieCade, trying hard to name them all.

"This year too, we have things that you couldn't see anywhere else, "Stephanie said. She's right, there's nothing quite like IndieCade and if any bit the gamer  you'll want to see the new indie games, both strange and fun. Try out the new venue this year, because it will always be IndieCade no matter where it is.